Today we'll continue our running series on the expectations facing various Blazer players this fall. The subject at hand is one Martell Webster. Will this be the year he fulfills his promise or will it be another disappointment?
On paper, at least, Martell has a chance. This team desperately needs outside shooting. Nobody does it prettier than Martell. The team will also need a third-option outlet which would advance Martell much closer to the forefront than he's been heretofore and probably make him happy. If we up the tempo a little we take the onus off of the team to protect every, single possession like it was gold, which should give Martell more leash. With stronger defense in the frontcourt the team might be able to absorb his deficiencies in that area, depending on how well the guards can keep up. Plus the small forward spot is open at the moment, leaving him a genuine opportunity. If things bounce right for Martell you could see him becoming a key cog in the offense, maybe averaging 15 or more with enough minutes, adding a handful of rebounds along the way.
If I had to guess, however, I'd say Martell's not going to get that chance. Somehow I don't see Coach McMillan pulling a 180 on him and giving him the freedom and shots he needs, especially with more prominent offensive options taking the floor alongside of him. It's a geektastic example, but if you go back and watch the first season or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation you'll see they're substantially different from the later years when the show and cast hit their stride. That's because in the early years it was all about featuring Picard, Riker, and Data to see if they could carry the show. Everyone else was a bit player. That's the Blazers this year. It's all new and it's going to be about the more prominent names. I'm not saying guys will be hogging shots. In fact I bet we're fairly unselfish. But the bulk of the plays are going to be designed for big guys in the post, Lamarcus from 15, or Brandon creating. Martell operates best when he gets a steady diet of touches and has the freedom to take multiple shots. That's just not going to happen this year. It's more of a 2009 thang.
Another big problem for Martell will be his continued lack of lateral movement and horizontal ball-handling on offense. He looks great when he can dribble right towards the hoop and elevate. Anything requiring sideways movement just looks sad. Like we mentioned on Brandon Roy day the paint is going to be full of opponents this year, making straight-line drives all but impossible. You'd think this would emphasize his shooting ability but when Martell becomes a single-trick jump shooter his game wilts.
You know Martell will get a chance or two to break out, but will he be able to capitalize? Absent injury to Roy (which could easily make him a prime scoring option in the backcourt) I'd say he simply won't get enough runway room to take off. That'll be true of minutes, shots, and space on the court. I hope he can up his scoring average nearer to 10 points per game. I don't see him breaking the 40% shooting mark with only sporadic shots. As in previous years he pretty much has to hit his threes to see court time. That's an awfully hard way to live. Last year's struggles with himself and the coaching staff only add weight to the millstone. Martell is not starting on neutral ground. He's pretty much in a hole from Day One. Even with the supposedly open competition for positions and minutes I'm not sure he'll have the wherewithal, or even a decent chance, to dig himself out.